‘Manifest’ is the third single released off Andrew Bird’s most recent album My Finest Work Yet. He could be right.
Good morning! Let’s kick off this week with something very contemporary. On the title track of Big Thief’s latest album U.F.O.F., Adrianne Lenker says goodbye to her UFO friend. “Polarize, polarize/The seasons will bend/There will soon be proof/That there is no alien/Just a system of truth and lies.” The sound is great and a supernatural imagination is on display. Have a great week.
In February 1994, Saint Etienne released Tiger Bay, their third studio LP on Heavenly Records. Band member Bob Stanley referred to the album as “an album of modern folk songs done in twentieth century styles like techno and dub”. Quite amazingly, the powers that be decided to drop the ‘Western Wind’/ ‘Tankerville’ suite from the American edition on Warner Bros. While the delivery of ‘Western Wind’ maintains the essence of a traditional English folk song, the shift into trip hop of ‘Tankerville’ was incredibly current.
On the subject of ladies with style, I feature Ms Harding for the second time this year. ‘Fixture Picture’ is the opening track off her most recent album Designer. I like one youtuber’s comment that it sounds like Neil Young’s Harvest Moon and Beck’s Morning Phase had a baby girl. And what’s more, the hats and the curious dance moves are an added bonus.
Oregon-born James Timothy Hardin is probably best known for his hit single ‘If I Were a Carpenter’ that has been covered by the likes of Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, Robert Plant, Small Faces and Bert Jansch. It featured on his sophomore album, Tim Hardin 2, for the short-lived Verve Forecast label. The album also contain a son that I admire even more… ‘Black Sheep Boy’ has been covered by Scott Walker and Okkervil River. The Black Sheep Boy died of of a heroin overdose in 1980.
The one and only Madame George playing dominoes in drag. Astral Weeks is generally considered one of the greatest albums in rock history, and despite not featuring on the LP’s fabled Side 1 (‘The Beginning’), ‘Madame George’ is at the album’s heart. This was Van Morrison at his most powerfully spiritual. Have a great weekend.
I mentioned Nick Drake this week. Three years before they disbanded, the NYC duo The Breaks took their musical combination of folk and electronica to their love of the Warwickshire man’s music. They worked with José González to cover ‘Cello Song’, a song that originally featured on Drake’s debut album Five Leaves Left. Yesterday, Omar S’s appreciation of the piano bedazzled. Today it’s Paul De Jong’s cello. Have a great weekend.
New Zealand singer-songwriter Hannah Harding (aka Aldous Harding) had already drawn much praise for her gothic folk. Then, in 2017, she signed to 4AD and enlisted the help of John Parish of Sparklehorse and PJ Harvey fame. Her sophomore album Party was released in 2017 to critical acclaim. Now, things continue to move onwards and upwards… her new single ‘The Barrel’ is a forerunner to a new album ‘Designer’ due to be released in April 2019. This is a modern take on folk, but still in the tradition of Nick Drake.
And now for a slight change of style… Joni Mitchell’s 1969 album Clouds was a breakthrough work for the singer-songwriter. It featured two of her standards ‘Chelsea Morning’ and ‘Both Sides Now’. The truth is that I prefer a number of cover versions of the former; not so for ‘ Both Sides Now’ and its ice cream castles in the air. Have a great weekend.
For me, country music recordings should come with warning labels. I often find it trite and dewy-eyed. Not so for much of the output of Townes Van Zandt. ‘Dollar Bill Blues’ featured on his 1978 collection Flyin’ Shoes. I like nostalgia and the storytelling as much as the next man… gambling, booze, self-destruction and late-night love.